The Collège Antoine-Girouard Gaulois have their eyes fixed on a national championship but coach Mario Pouliot says the only way to accomplish that is to stay focussed on the prize.
That’s the word he’s been using over and over again as he prepares his squad for competition in the six-team Air Canada Cup national midget AAA hockey championships in Sault Ste. Marie April 21-27.
The top four teams after round robin play advance to the semifinals and Gaulois is confident his club can be among those teams.
“For my team, I have to make sure all the guys stay focussed and disciplined,” said Gaulois, whose team ousted defending Quebec champion College Charles-Lemoyne in five games of their best-of-seven final to win the provincial title. “The key word here is focus.”
That’s something the Gaulois’ had little trouble with during the regular season as they finished with a 35-5-2 record, during which they scored a whopping 201 goals while allowing just 85.
“One of our biggest qualities as a team is our speed and transition game,” said Pouliot. “We move the puck well and we_ve been able to play tight defensively.”
Offensively, Collège Antoine-Girouard is led by Benoit Doucet, who scored 37 goals and 72 points in 40 games and Francis Charette, who tallied 32 goals and 71 points in 42 games. In goal, Loic Lacasse has been solid all season as evidenced by his 22-1-1 record and 2.07 goals-against average.
“He’s (Lacasse) really good,” said Pouliot. “He’s a big guy at about six-foot-one and he’s very fast in net. He_s got good technique and he covers his angles really well.”
Three players on Collège Antoine-Girouard’s roster have been drafted by Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams, among them high-scoring forward Mathieu Aubin, who was named most valuable player during the playoffs, talented defenceman Gabriel Bassette and goalie Julien Ellis, who started the season with CAG but finished the season with the QMJHL's Shawinigan Cataractes.
In the playoffs, Aubin scored 30 points in 14 games and, according to Pouliot, has been among their best players all season.
For Collège Antoine-Girouard, this year’s trip to the nationals will mark their first appearance at the Air Canada Cup but considering they’ve only been in existence for six years, that’s a huge accomplishment. They competed in just one tournament this season, during which they went 6-0 to claim the title in Drummondville.
“I’ve been talking to the guys all week and I keep telling them how big this tournament is,” said Pouliot. “It’s a good opportunity for them to compete and try and win a national title.”
“For my team, it’s important that we play very smart and very disciplined and execute very well but the thing I keep telling them is it’s an honour just to be competing for the title.”
While Pouliot admits to knowing very little about the opposing teams in the tournament, he said the Soo North Stars will probably be formidable opposition for everyone, particularly because of home-ice advantage.
The Stars, who lost out to Sudbury in the championship series of the Great North Midget Hockey League, received entry in the event as the host team.